Our Alaskan Summer Vacation

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My favorite travel partner in the world is my best friend and husband, Super Dave! This blog is a travel diary of both business and pleasure trips; happy reading.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vienna Day 2

Our goal on this day was to see a large portion of the city by tour bus. We purchased tickets on line in advance for the Red Bus City Tours. Our tour was called "Totally Vienna" and covered the following highlights: Academia of Fine Arts – Goethe and Schiller Monument – Mozart Monument - Hofburg – Museum of Fine Arts and Natural History – Parliament – City Hall – Burgtheater – University - Stock Exchange – Schwedenplatz – St Stephan’s Cathedral - Urania – Hundertwasser House (20 min stop) - Prater - UNO City – Stadtpark – Beethovenplatz - Musikverein - St. Charles Square - Schönbrunn Palace (30 min stop) – Belvedere Palace – Karlplatz (ST Charles Square) – State Opera House – Albertina.

After breakfast we stopped in the Merkur Hoher Markt to watch the noon Anker Clock performance. First we toured the market looking at their extensive wine and products.   The clock was built in 1911 and has 12 historical figures that pass each hour with a Roman numeral above their heads. At noon at 12 figures pass by.

After the market and clock watching we walked through Vienna killing time before our tour. We walked smack into an area with another Hilton hotel that was situated in the heart of activity and easy access. We immediately walked in and spoke to a front desk agent letting her know we wanted to cancel our reservation at the Hilton Vienna Plaza to this hotel, the Hilton Hotel Vienna. The other hotel was on the other side of the Ringstrasse and honestly was too old and stuffy for us. While we enjoy typically historic properties, we just weren't feeling it there. We spoke to Hilton Honors and got our reservation changed and would check in to the hotel on Friday for two nights.

After changing the reservation we walked to our tour. On the way we stopped at the Opera House (tours only) and decided to return another time and also purchased two concert tickets for Friday night. The concert is at the Misikverein as the Opera House is closed for performances in July.

We arrived to Albertina Platz where we began our tour. The tour covered the following landmarks: Albertinaplatz and around the side of the Opera House, down the street past the Natural Art and History of Art Museums (Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches), the Hofburg Palace, the Parliament, in between the Burgtheater, University, Stock Exchange, and Rathaus, past the Borse and alongside the Danube Canal (Donaukanal), over by Urania, and stopping at the Hundertwasser-Krawina Haus. Then we crossed over into Prater passing the Ferris Wheel. UNO City, Stadtpark, Beethovenplatz, Musikverein, St. Charles Square, Schönbrunn Palace (30 min stop), and Belevedere Palace.

After touring we stopped for the original Sacher Torte at the Sacher Hotel then shopped a bit ( yay for H&M!) also shot a few pics of St. Stephan's then had an early dinner at a sausage stand; Dave having Bartwurst and me a cheese sausage with Mustard and brown bread. Heaven!!  We stopped at a mini market for some snacks and beer and called it a night.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Willkommen in Wien!

We took the train from Prague to Vienna and it was 4 hr.  and 45 minute train ride. We discovered that although we had purchased our rail passes in advance, we didn't have reserved seats. The ticketing agent in Prague was so very friendly and helpful.   Not only did she confirm our seats; she did the same for our next two rail journeys.
Leaving the Prague train station

Train ticket to Wien
After wandering around slightly helpless, a very nice off duty porter assisted us in to our platform. He was originally from Budapest, he came to Prague as a tourist 10 years ago.  He helped us to get situated at the correct platform and we were set to go.

Upon arrival into Vienna we struggled just a bit to find a can line. We had planned on taking public transportation to the hotel but decided a cab would be fastest.  We arrived at our hotel at 4:00 p.m. and checked in. We spent several hours in the room charging devices, uploading photos, etc. we finally ventured out for dinner around 7:30 p.m.   On our way into the city we passed this abandoned building that caught our eye.  It had all the windows and doorways stuffed with colored cut of foam pieces and cloth.  This is what we saw.

What could it be?
We ate at the Restaurant Gutenberg. Dave had the signature schnitzel and I had  the pork medallions with buttery dumplings; a very tasty local dish. 
Johannes Gutenberg monument. Gutenberg was the inventor of the printing press.
After dinner and stroll through town we came upon this fascinating clock.  The clock sat between to buildings high above our heads.  It's not your typical clock.  The clock is called the Ankeruhr, a large gilded clock in Jugendstil style (the local version of Art Nouveau). The clock spans a small alley, the Bauernmarkt.  It was commissioned by the insurance company Der Anker - hence its name - and was constructed in 1917 after a design by Franz Matsch. Our plan is to return tomorrow at noon and watch the show; each of the twelve figures appear one by one.
The Ankeruhr
After watching the clock we wandered back to the hotel and entered upon the conclusion of a outdoor performance called the Wagner Extase and guess where it was?  Right back at the abandoned looking building we saw earlier!

We approached just as the performers were winding down their singing and it was actually performance art.  As we approached the audience was applauding and walking inside.  Dave and I looked at each other and said, "why not?" and jumped in the crowd and walked in.  We walked down three floors down in the basement of this huge palace that is the former imperial telegraph office.  We wandered from room to room accompanied by Wagner's music and it started to get smokier and danker as the candles started dripping and burning.  We saw wait staff so knew there was some type of reception going on but when folks started taking out their tickets we knew it was time to go so we wandered back upstairs and out the door.

Performers at the Wagner Extase
We walked back to our room to call it a night to gear up for tomorrow's tour day.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Korlovy Vary (Day 3)

We scheduled our 3rd day in advanced on line.  We researched things to see and do and decided to incorporate this tour into our days in Prague.  Before we started our day with a bus tour to Korlovy Vary and the Moser Glass Factory we discovered an open air market just outside our hotel. We walked through the market and snapped some photos then headed to the pick up site.
Medovina Elisa; a mead beer at the market

Czech pottery at the market
Korlovy Vary is a spa city situated in Western Bohemia, Czech Republic.  The tour consisted of the bus ride to the town, a glass factory tour, lunch and an afternoon of swimming in the spring fed pool.

The bus ride was over 2 hours and when we arrived at the factory, we were told it was a factory holiday and they were not blowing glass. We were very disappointed and learned later that the whole month of July is a holiday. This consisted of a quick tour of the museum (which was boring because I wanted to see glass being blown) and into an overpriced showroom. Moser Glass is called the glass of Kings and now we know why; because commoners cannot afford it!
The CLOSED glass factory
We had lunch at the Hotel Thermal followed by a guided walking tour of all the thermal springs locations and buildings.  Afterward we swam in the thermal fed pool and finished some last minute shopping walking away with a set of six glass cocktail drink glasses for 55 US dollars; authentic Czech crystal.
The Hotel Thermal

Starter soup at lunch; authentic Czech onion soup
Colorful buildings in Korlovy Vary

Hotel Lazensky dum Manes

Municipal Theatre
The spring fed pool we swam in.  Mattoni is a brand of spring water.
We returned to the the bus for another 2 hour ride and were back to the hotel by 7:30. Again we had drinks and snacks in the Executive Lounge of the Hilton tomorrow we're off by train in the morning to Vienna.
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Prague Day 2

After a very late morning and catching up on some much needed sleep we walked the city entering in and out of unique tourists shops.  We started over by the Powder Tower and worked out way back into Old Town Square.

We had lunch at this amazing local spot called Restaurant U Golema. I had the goulash; which in Prague is actually pronounced "goo-yash". It was served with these incredible dumplings sliced to looked like medallions of bread and a pickled slaw salad and a sweet concoction of pastry with powdered sugar for dessert.  It was called the "tourist's lucheon" special.  Dave of course had a beer and we documented his selections with various college pics that we posted to Facebook and Instagram.

After lunch we walked through the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) and saw the oldest synagogue in Europe. After that we walked along the Vltava River over to the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments. The Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments contains a grisly set of 60 copies of medieval instruments of torture. They were derived from Italian and German originals, with period illustrations to show torturers at work; yeesh!

When done we walked back to the hotel to freshen up for our dinner cruise. We took a cruise of the Vltava River and had dinner.  The Moldova, in Czech called "Vltava", is the longest river in the Czech Republic. The Moldova is 440 km long and is a tributary of the Elbe.  Ah the power of the internet.  We researched dinner cruises in Prague and decided on the Classic River.  While the river tour was nice enough; the food was fair and the tour guide was not to be found.  We did however go through a lock and dam process and by the time the sun set and we returned; we were glad to be done with it.  It wasn't as good as we thought it would be.  We sat with a lovely couple from Sweden whose English was much better than our Swedish and we were able to have a nice conversation.

Fish pedicure

Maisel Synagogue

Becherovka, formerly Karlsbader Becherbitter, is a herbal bitters, often drunk as a digestive aid that is produced in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic; a glass of this was given to everyone on the dinner cruise.

Passing through the locks on the Vltava River.

Vyšehrad is a historical fort built in the 10th century on a hill over the Vltava River.  

Sun setting on the Charles Bridge

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Welcome to Praha!

In 2012 I accepted a new job and went back to work full time.  Dave and I used to travel extensively and we were not doing much lately.  Dave said one day, "I think we need a vacation back to Europe.  Where do you want to go?"  I immediately responded with, " PRAGUE" and took him by surprise as he's been wanting to go to Spain for some time.  I don't know why, but Prague has been on my bucket list of cities to travel to and I've heard nothing but wonderful things.  So Prague it was and on this trip; we incorporated a trip to Vienna and Budapest as well.

So without further ado; here is the recap of our adventures to these three cities.

We departed San Antonio on Saturday, the 20th of July.  We flew Delta airlines nonstop from San Antonio to New York; then nonstop from New York to Prague.  We had a layover in New York so we met our nephew Matthew for lunch at Lenny's Clam Bar in Queens.  He's a good kid!
The Newphew
We basically flew through the night and arrived on Sunday AM at 11:30.  Our only delay was in NY as we had a rain delay and arrived about an hour behind schedule.  We took a cab from the Prague airport to the Hilton Prague Old Town Hotel. They were so kind and hospitable.  They placed us in our room immediately and we were set to go.  We dropped off our bags, took quick showers and hit the ground running as we had a 2:45PM bus and walking tour of Prague.  Whenever we travel we always start with an organized tour of some sorts then get the general overview of the city.  From there we venture out on our own.  Our game plan was three nights in Prague; a train to Vienna with four nights in Vienna; a train to Budapest with four nights there and back to Prague for an overnight before departing the next day for home.

The bus tour was good but not great as we felt they really zipped past all the sites and didn't leave much wiggle room for decent photos.  We got a quick overview and covered Old Town Square and the Municipal House, the Powder Tower, the main train station (Praha hlavní nádraží), the National Museum (Národní muzeum), Wenscelas Square, the Dancing House (Tančící dům), the National Theatre and the Prague Castle.    

After the bus tour we got off on foot at the Prague Castle and walked through it looking at the Schwarzenberg Palace, Church of the Virgin Mary, Chapel of the Holy Cross, St. Vitus Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Obelisk and viewed the changing of the Guard.   Leaving the castle we walked by St. Nicholas Church and over the Charles Bridge back into Old Town Square crossing through the Klementinum which houses several libraries and official houses and stopped off at the Astronomical Clock.  Needless to say we acclimated quickly and got our bearings for the next few days.

Tourist view of Charles Bridge

The view into the Schwarzenberg Palace

View from Prague Castle

Castle entrance

Little girls watching the changing of the guard

The doors to St. Vitus Cathedral

Stained glass inside St. Vitus Cathedral

The Obelisk

Street performer on the walk way to Charles Bridge

Cafe after the walk way

The view from Charles Bridge

Old Town Square

Close up of the Astronomical Clock
After a full day we hit the hotel for cocktails and snacks then later made our way to the mall just to check out the stores and grab a lite bite.  After a quick purchase at Marks & Spencer we called it a night.
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Friday, July 19, 2013

Sbohem a brzy se uvidíme! Auf Wiedersehen und bis bald! Viszlát, és hamarosan találkozunk!

That's Czech, German and Hungarian for Goodbye and see you soon!  Super Dave and I are off to celebrate our 13th Wedding Anniversary to Prague, Vienna and Budapest.  We are so excited and can't wait to see the sights, sounds and smells of this journey.  Check back for photos and blog posts. Pin It Now!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A white Christmas

My nephew David lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Berlin.  They are expecting a baby girl in January and invited us to spend Christmas with them.  My sister Sherri joined as well and we had a lovely holiday celebration together.

Berlin is due in (fairly) early January and we were really hopeful she'd give birth while we were there but alas, Piper decided to wait.

Our other hope was for a white Christmas.  David gently explained that Salt Lake City is in a valley and typically they don't receive any snow over Christmas.  However, we were in luck and it actually started snowing on Christmas eve.

Seriously.  Here is proof of it.  You can see the flakes on the back of Hannah; one of David and Berlin's duo of weimaraners.

I was pretty good at documenting the snowfall and sure enough on Christmas day this was our view from their apartment.

We arrived to Salt Lake on Friday evening, December 21.  We got in late but were able to rent a car and get to David's place just fine. 

On Saturday we ventured out into the chilly temps and had brunch at one of David's favorite spots, the Piper Down Pub. (Not the inspiration for his namesake if you are curious.)  Dave had a Guiness and they artfully designed it with a shamrock in the head.
After lunch we made our way over to the Utah State Capitol.  Here's Dave and Berlin in front as well as a shot of the infamous beehive. The Beehive and word "industry" became the official motto and emblem for Utah on March 4, 1959.

David then took us through a scenic drive through the neighborhoods of Draper and some of their massive homes for sale.  We passed the Draper Temple as well and then stopped for some amazing photos of the sun setting over the lake.

After that we drove back into Salt Lake and stopped at Scheels Sporting Goods.  They are a newly opened store there and are known for having a ferris wheel inside the store.  Of course we had to ride it!
David's Mom Sherri arrived that night and on Sunday we made a day of it up in Park City.  We arrived a mere 15 minutes late for our whiskey tour at the High West Distillery & Saloon and they turned us away.  So we made our way through Park City and stopped at another bar for a drink and finished the day window shopping.
Here is David, Berlin and his mom, my sister Sherri on the roof top bar overlooking Park City.

We return to High West later for dinner.  We had a terrific meal and Dave and I finished our meal with a dessert of a whiskey tasting and chocolates.  While I tried them all, I am definitely not a whiskey fan and prefer chocolate over it any day.
Afterward David took us to the Historic Temple Square and we walked the Temple grounds taking in the sites and sounds of Utah's umber one tourist attractions and world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

David prepared an outstanding Christmas eve dinner of ham, sweet potato casserole and a green bean casserole.  Each day he made a hot breakfast and needless to say we left Utah stuffed to the gills.

We enjoy a brief Christmas Day together and then off to the airport to return to San Antonio we went.

Here are Hannah and Hugo enjoying the warmth of the fireplace.

Merry Christmas!
Piper, we really wanted to meet you this time.  We are so excited about your arrival soon!
Happy New Year!  See you all in 2013.

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